Did you ever read a memoir when you were a kid that made you want to try All Of Those Forbidden Things Which You Are Not Supposed to Try?
Sex, drugs, cigarettes, everything, everything, more, more, more!
For me it was Drew Barrymore's "Little Girl Lost." I was reminded of this, my favorite addiction memoir in the history of time, because Drew just joined Twitter, which immediately took me right back to 1990, being 15 years old and racing through the book even faster than I could read Judy Blume's "Forever."
Which was pretty damned fast.
For your enjoyment, reflection and edification -- and to celebrate Drew's arrival on Twitter, I present to you now, the careful discerning ever-critical eye with which I read Barrymore's defining coming-of-age book when it was released. Let's go through my favorite passages!
When I was ten and a half, I was sitting in the backseat of a car driven by a friend's mother. She started smoking pot. I'd wanted to try marijuana for a long time, but I was afraid if I asked she'd say, "No way, Drew. You're too young." However, she offered me some and I said, "Sure, I'll try it." I was shocked. But she had a look that seemed to say "Isn't it cute, a little girl getting stoned?"
Eventually that got boring too, and my addict mind told me, "Well, if smoking pot is cute, it'll also be cute to get into heavier stuff, like cocaine." My usage was gradual. But what I did kept getting worse and worse, and I didn't care what anybody else thought about me. The higher I got, the happier I imagined myself, the more miserable I actually was.
How I read it:
Oh my God. This is the most exciting thing I've ever read.
The party time environment was intoxicating. I loved it for the same reason I hated school. I belonged. If for no other reason than I was Drew Barrymore, the celebrity, I was part of it. Someone. Being in the thick of all those people was like a big security blanket.
I was embarrassingly naive. Just how naive I discovered one night at a party when I was standing around with my mom and some people. It was still early and everyone was trading ideas of what to do afterward. "Why don't we have sex?" I chimed in. Everyone's jaw dropped. I could almost hear the thud as they hit the floor. I didn't understand. "Isn't it like a joyride?" I asked, using the language I'd heard in the movie, which I thought referred to something like going on a Ferris wheel. My mom's eyes nearly bugged out. "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed, taking me aside and saying, "Drew, I think we need to have a talk."
How I read it:
OK, I want to be an adult. Like, yesterday.
Gigi hastily stenciled a set of signs that said, ROUND ONE, ROUND TWO, and so on all the way up to ROUND SIX. Then she held up the first card and said, "Okay, Drew and Brecken kiss, round one."
We kissed. A little longer this time, but still quick.
"Okay, now talk about it," said Gigi, "and then we'll try the next round."
By round six Brecken and I were smooching like mad, passionate lovers. Thanks to Gigi's coaching, we spent nearly an hour instructing each other exactly how we preferred to be kissed. We trained each other, and it was great.
From then on, we kissed all the time. In class, Brecken and I would always pretend to drop pencils or books. Then both of us would bend down to pick it up and we'd sneak in some heavy kisses. One time my mother was driving a carload of friends to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. The car was packed. I was sitting on Brecken's lap. Someone tossed a jacket over us and we made out the whole way there without my mom knowing.
To this day--I swear--I can't kiss a guy without, at some point, thinking of Brecken. Really. He was the best kisser. Why? Because I trained him.
How I read it:
OK, I want a boyfriend. Like, yesterday.
It was Rob Lowe's birthday party. I think he turned twenty.
All the Brat Packers were there. Rob, his younger brother, Chad, and stepbrother Micah, Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore, Melissa Gilbert, and so on. The music was blasting. Almost everyone has some kind of drink, even though no one was of age and the dance floor was humming.
I introduced Gigi to Rob and gave him a birthday kiss. We danced to a few songs, but then I had an idea."Let's snag a beer," I said. "Cool," smiled Gigi. There was a slew of cold, open bottles set up on the bar. We walked up, quickly snatched one, and ran off to the bathroom, where we got into a stall and split the bottle while puffing on a couple of cigarettes. We were a little light-headed after downing the beer and walked out feeling more grown-up than before. We were like everyone else: swigging brews and smoking--even though we had to sneak them.
Later, I got braver. I sidled up to one of the Brat Packers, a real Mr. Nice Guy, who was holding a bottle of beer by his side."Can I have a sip of your beer?" I asked."Yeah, sure," he said, handing me the bottle. I'm sure he thought it was cute to give a little kid a sip of beer. But I quickly downed the remainder of the bottle. "Hey, I said a sip," he said, taking the empty from me. "Sorry," I shrugged coyly. "That's okay." "You know you just gave me my first beer," I said, "Really?" he said. "Cool."
Feeling a slight buzz, I began to flirt, innocently, with Emilio Estevez, whom I had a crush on. It was like batting eyes at your big brother. Then a slow song came on and I made some comment about everyone slow-dancing, about how much fun it looked to be cuddled up against someone, and Emilio smiled. "Do you want to?" he asked. "I don't know how," I said. "I've never done it before." "Cool," he smiled. "I'll take you on your first slow dance." He hoisted me up off my feet and carried me out to the dance floor. I wish I had a picture of that sight, which had to be amusing. I was about half Emilio's size, not to mention half his age. He was being especially nice to me. I looked around at all the girls, noticing how they leaned in tight on their boyfriends, and nuzzled close to Emilio, wrapping my little legs around his waist. It was the perfect antidote to being called fat and ugly at school. My heart was thumping. I was definitely in the throes of a heavy-duty crush. When the song finished, Emilio set me down, patted me on the rump, and went off to talk to someone else. I ran over to Gigi. "I'm in love," I sighed.
He made me feel so special, though sometime after that, emboldened by alcohol and my attraction to virtually any guy who winked at me, I started making out with Micah, Rob's stepbrother, who was about twelve. It was that kind of party. We were imitating the older people.
How I read it:
OK, screw it. I just want to be Drew.
The club's owner never had a clue what we did. She would've killed me for drinking. She's always been unmerciful whenever she's seen me smoke. It's hard to judge how much we drank on an average night, but it was a lot. A few times we passed out up there, slept for several hours, and woke up with monumental headaches--a combination of alcohol and lying with our ears right beside the speakers. But we were always game for more.
We loved dancing too. We'd try especially hard to look very sexy on the dance floor, mimicking perfectly whatever moves we saw the older women make. And believe it or not, despite our age, guys came on to us all the time. It was understandable; we looked so much older than we actually were. We loved that part.
If a guy was cute, we were all over his case, flirting, trying to amuse him, waiting for him to ask one of us to dance. And when the question came, our answer was always the same. "Sure if you'll get us a drink." That was our line.
How I read it:
Mental note: Good line.
I loved cocaine. Period. That I think, says it all. Part of being an addict is involvement in the continuous search for the perfect antidote to pain. It's like a doctor treating an illness with a specific antibiotic. For some addicts it's booze. For others it's pills or heroin. You go through them all, knowing that something out there is going to make you feel good.
Alcohol made me feel horrible. It caused me to forget my pain, which is what I liked about it, but I always drank to excess and I woke up sick as a dog, which I hated. Pot--that was fun for a while. Then I discovered cocaine, and it was like standing on top of a mountain yelling, "Eureka! I found it!"
Coke was the right drug for me. Neat and quick, with no apparent after-effect, coke allowed me to soar above my depression and sadness, above all my problems. What I couldn't see is that it eventually makes you go crazy. However, out of plain and simple fear, I didn't try coke til I was back in Los Angeles. I was scared of what effect coke might have on me. But in New York, I was around it often enough not to be naive about its thrilling high.
How I read it:
Holy crap. I cannot let my mom find me reading this book.
God, I consumed so much that night. I don't even know how much I consumed, but it was very, very scary. When it came time for me to do my first lines, I was so frightened I could barely see out of my eyes. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
A friend held my head straight so I could snort better. And I needed the help. I was so drunk and so stoned I could hardly walk. "Do a couple lines and you'll be all right," a friend of mine coached. It wasn't just me who was in such a bad state. All my friends were completely buzzed too. And these were the cream of the crop, the really good kids from school. If any parents had seen a picture of that crowd, they never would've believed all those kids were guzzling wine coolers, smoking pot, and laying out lines of coke like it was candy.
Then we smoked some coco-puffs--a little cocaine on a cigarette--and got even higher. From that night on I loved cocaine. I craved it all the time. Just thinking about it caused my palms to sweat. That was me. Gimme my coke. My mind seemed to have a huge neon sign in it that blinked nonstop: COKE. GET COKE. So I did. It was great for dieting, partying, and picking up my mood. If I did a little coke, I could drink all I wanted without feeling it. It made me happy, I thought coke was the ultimate in life.
"More," I thought. "I've got to get more."
That's the insidious nature of the drug. You always want more. No matter what you tell yourself about rationing, conserving, or cutting down, you always want more, more, more. I remember being so incredibly high, my hands were shaking and my heart was pounding. I could hardly sit still. I imagined myself grinning from ear to ear. But when I looked back down at the empty mirror, hoping to find a few stray pebbles, I aw that I was actually crying. Tears were streaming down my cheeks and I didn't even know it. I was miserable. I didn't know what was going on. I remember telling myself, "Get a grip, girl." But, I guess, it was too late.
They took me into a small admitting room, where a blond guy, one of the night technicians, greeted us and collected the proper forms. The room was sterile, stocked with just two plastic-covered couches, a plain table, and a big ashtray. I sat there and smoked cigarettes, one after the other. Chelsea had two packs in her purse, and she had to open the second one. My mom complained that I was smoking too much, but I just ignored her and waited for something to happen.
"How many beers have you had tonight?" asked the tech.
"Oh, about fifteen," I said. I heard my mother gasp.
"Fifteen, huh," he nodded.
"And you're not drunk."
"No, not at all," I said.
The tech looked at me like I was the idiot I was being.
"Okay, I'm drunk," I laughed.
But our exchange became very businesslike and serious.
"Do you smoke pot?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said.
"Do you do coke?"
"And you drink an awful lot, I suppose"
"Yeah, you can say that."
"Have you ever done heroin?"
"I don't think so," I said.
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"No, I don't think I have."
My mom, who was crying a stream of tears, couldn't contain her shock and horror any longer. "You've done cocaine?" she blurted out. I turned to her and gave her a look that said, "Bug off."
How I read it:
OK, so it is official. I am the most boring teenager alive.
I'd passed through the airport metal detector in New York with the coke wrapped in a tiny bit of aluminum foil, and even though nothing happened, I realized that was potentially serious trouble I didn't want to risk. "There are about twelve lines," I said. "Why don't you do four and I'll do the rest." "Come on, Drew," she shook her head, "that's too much for you." Nonetheless, we did about four lines each, catching a buzz that had our hearts racing, while still leaving just a small amount, which I stuck in my jeans pocket before taking off those pants.
When I left the bathroom to change into another outfit, a strange man and woman were standing in my room. "Who the fuck are you?" I said, thinking they were cops. "I'm a friend," the woman replied. "Well, friend," I screamed, "get out of here until I'm dressed." "I'm sorry, I can't do that," she said, pulling out a pair of handcuffs from her pocket. "Oh, shit," I thought, "here's the nightmare I've always feared, happening right before my eyes."
But as they walked me outside with my hands cuffed behind my back, they revealed they were private agents hired by my mother to take me back to the hospital. When I realized I wasn't going to jail, I heaved a big sigh of relief. Stacy said she was going to wait at my house, and as I passed her at the door, she said, "I love you." I said, "I love you too," and both of us started to cry.
Driving over to the hospital, the agents started asking me about my movies, which I thought was sick. "God, you've just yanked me out of my house with cuffs on," I thought, "and now you're asking me what it was like to meet E.T. What jerks." I refused to say a word the rest of the drive.
When we arrived at the admitting hall, they finally unlocked the handcuffs, Then, believe it or not, they asked me for my autograph.
How I read it:
Dick move asking for the autograph. Mental note: Don't do that.
Am I alone in this phenomenon of reading a book about Very Bad Exciting Things and then immediately wanting to try them? Apparently not. I asked around xoJane, and I got a few other stellar examples.
Jane: I read "Go Ask Alice" when I was about 11 and couldn't wait to try LSD, saying to my mom, "It's so cool! She eats a strawberry and her whole body tastes it! She can hear someone stirring Jell-O three blocks away!!" And my mom was like, "Did you not get the part about how she dies in the end?" Nope, I did not.
Daisy: I love "Go Ask Alice." I think I read it when I was 11 or 12, also. Didn't tell my mom about it.
So, what's your memoir poison?
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.